Posts

By Bryanna Ruiz and Amado Castillo, UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Fellows

There are very few opportunities for scholars, academics, and students to congregate and hold events centering such issues as Central American Migration, which is what made the conference held last month at the Luskin School of Public Affairs so special. The conference titled “Central American Migration to Mexico and the United States Conference,” was multilingual, interdisciplinary, and intersectional, which created space for critical conversations and the exploration of compelling research that is inspiring further collaborations among scholars and students.

The experiences of Central American migrants are often conflated with the experiences of other immigrants coming to the United States. While all migrants are subject to dangerous situations, it is important to understand the unique challenges faced by individuals that travel through several different nation states to come to the United States. The conference was created with this very purpose in mind and highlighted different communities and experiences including those of indigenous Mayan migrants and even some of the personal experiences of panelists. It also utilized historical evidence to contextualize contemporary issues. The event highlighted the work of several faculty experts from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) including Dr. Leisy Abrego, Dr. Juan Herrera, and Dr. Cecilia Menjivar who heralded the event and shared how their own personal narratives enhance their research on Central American migration.

Dr. Abrego spoke about the impact of US immigration policies stating that, “what is happening right now, I guarantee you, will have effects for generations to come as people have to heal from the type of legal violence we are seeing.”

Professor Leisy Abrego centered her presentation on the negative rhetoric that has become increasingly common towards Central Americans and its impact on United States immigration policy. To highlight the shift in federal responses toward Central American migrants, Dr. Abrego  offered comparisons of the Obama and Trump Administrations’ policies on immigration and how they built upon the border industrial complex. According to Dr. Abrego, the Obama Administration used deterrence rhetoric as a shield to protect from any critiques that migrants were being treated unjustly. The Obama Administration continuously stated that the only reason they created detention centers was to prevent any more Central Americans from wanting to migrate and attempted to humanize their struggles for funding support. Under the Trump administration, the number of deportations decreased but the rhetoric surrounding immigrants, specifically Central Americans, became more aggressive. Dr. Abrego acknowledged that the negative rhetoric used by the Trump Administration led to the further dehumanization of Central American immigrants in order to build up a xenophobic political base.

One of the key factors that Dr. Leisy Abrego centered on during her presentation was the erasure of the U.S.’s role in immigration. Many Central American immigrants looking for shelter in the U.S. are turned away, or asked to wait in a perpetual state of limbo in Mexico, before they are granted asylum in the U.S. Many critics of immigration reform wonder why the U.S. should take responsibility to shelter asylum seekers. Dr. Abrego addresses these critics with the effects of erasure of the U.S.’s role in immigration. The U.S. is responsible for much of the gang violence that is now inherent in several Central American countries, specifically El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Abrego concluded by stating, “in the representation of Central Americans…always as a crisis either as criminals…or as helpless victims, we always erase, at least in the main discourse, the role of the United States in creating all of this.”

LPPI Faculty Expert, Dr. Juan Herrera shared his experience as a dark-skinned Latino in a community with prevalent anti-indigenous sentiment and how they fueled his studies.

Dr. Juan Herrera also called upon his lived experiences to provide context to the circumstances of Central American migrants. By leveraging his personal anecdotes, Dr. Herrera brought a human face to the economic, political and social difficulties faced by Central American migrants  in Mexico and the United States. During his talk he shared his experience as a dark-skinned Latino in a community with prevalent anti-indigenous sentiment and how they fueled his studies. During his talk he stated, “I think that fundamentally…. integration is a spatial process.” He described how interactions are vital to socialization and that they provide the basis of identity formation.  Dr. Herrera also spoke about how some of his past research showed that many Central American migrants to the US come to work as day laborers. “Literature was treating day laborers as transient despacialized laborers…(in) our current neoliberal economy, migrants are valued solely for their cheap labor without adequately perceiving them as human beings who construct social relationships that produce space.” Dr. Herrera coined the term racialized illegality to conceptualize this hardship faced by Central American migrants, how illegality affects people depending on how they were racialized in their own country and how that ultimately affects their migration and settlement processes.

Cecilia Menjivar, in her opening speech, described the growing number of Central-American scholars and what it means for the future of the discipline.

Members from UNICA and CAIGA took part in a panel that centered their work for Central American migrants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Central American immigrants continue to face increasingly negative rhetoric and horrific conditions meant to drive them away from coming to the United States, it is important that conferences such as the “Central American Migration to Mexico and the United States Conference” continue the conversations that bring critical context to these issues. Spaces, such as the one created last month, are necessary to facilitate the transfer of knowledge among academics that can be utilized to create more holistic and human portrayals of the Central American refugees that continue to be featured across all forms of media.

Every speaker agreed that educating others about the issues Central American migrant communities are facing and bringing a human face to those issues through personal narratives, is vital to finding effective solutions that recognize the humanity and dignity of immigrants. They also agreed upon the toll that is being exacted in the current immigration environment that will haunt communities for decades to come, with Dr. Abrego putting a fine point on the matter saying, “What is happening right now, I guarantee you, will have effects for generations to come as people have to heal from the type of legal violence we are seeing.”

Dr. Leisy Abrego, Dr. Cecilia Menjivar and Dr. Ruben Hernandez-Leon heralded the event.

The event was created in conjunction between the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), the UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration, and the UCLA Center for Mexican Studies and co-sponsored by student-run organizations CAIGA (Central American Isthmus Graduate Association) and UNICA (Union Centroamericana de UCLA).

Contributors: Kacey Bonner and Diana Garcia

For more reporting on the conference, go HERE.

Taking a photo outside of the restaurant where we discussed the advent of graduate school and the best way to use our time during Undergrad. (From left to right: Gilberto Mendoza. Amado Castillo, Celina Avalos, Vianney Gomez, Julio Mendez Vargas, and Eduardo Solis)

By Amado Castillo and Eduardo Solis

With over 1,000 organizations at UCLA, it is difficult for undergraduates to carve out a place and establish a presence on campus. In 2017, UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and the Luskin School of Public Affairs incubated a new avenue for undergraduates to engage with faculty on community-facing policy issues–the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI).

“From the first LPPI event I ever attended, a lunchtime conversation with my Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, I felt that it was an important organization as it connected policymakers with the academics who are studying the community conditions that they are trying to remedy. The idea of working at a rapid-pace think tank was daunting at first, but after my initial meeting with Sonja Diaz, I found that while there is an expectation for professionalism and a strong work ethic, there is a definite sense of community. I am very grateful to get to work with and learn from peers of mine who are definitive forces of change on our campus.” -Amado

“Throughout my first two years at UCLA, I was uncertain on what career I wanted to pursue. However, having taken a course on immigration policy made me aware to the fact that policy is what affects marginalized communities the most. During my interview to be a policy fellow, I was greeted by Sonja’s dog, Junot, and then later, Senate pro Tempore Kevin de León! This is emblematic of the space that LPPI convenes; something both accessible and powerful.” -Eduardo

As new policy fellows, we spent the first few weeks transitioning into our roles through the mentorship and guidance of current undergraduate and graduate policy fellows. We gained invaluable knowledge during the first half of spring quarter and became accustomed to working as a collective in a professional setting. During the third week, Sonja Diaz (LPPI’s Founding Executive Director) invited us to participate in a professional development opportunity with Bay Area professionals. We met with professionals of color from a handful of important sectors who imbued us with the knowledge of what it meant to lead with a social justice mindset. Diaz explained to us that the people we were going to meet with all worked in different sectors, all of which are woefully lagging on issues of diversity and inclusion. These sectors include the philanthropy, tech, and healthcare industry.

Policy Fellows gaining insight and taking notes while JC discusses how philanthropy can be utilized to uplift communities of color (From left to right: Julio Mendez Vargas, Eduardo Solis, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo and JC De Vera)

When we got to our first meeting, we met JC De Vera who works as a Program Grantmaker at the San Francisco Foundation in the Embarcadero building. He explained to us how fulfilling his job is, working within the philanthropy sector to mobilize and move resources to fuel advocacy. De Vera explained the importance of the intersections of advocacy and philanthropy, specifically how grant allocations have a significant impact on which organizations flourish and which die. He described to us how many people do not enjoy working in philanthropy because they anticipate having to go through a lot of bureaucratic red tape. However, De Vera is grateful that he gets to manage a rapid response power fund. He expressed, “I need to have an impact in my life and my career. If not, it’s not the job for me.” De Vera concluded our meeting by reiterating how for him, work has always been about lifting up people from the margins and giving them the financial assistance to do so.

At our next stop we connected with Hector Preciado at his Hired office, which looked and felt like the way tech companies are portrayed in television and film. He provided a different/contrary approach, inviting us to think about doing business school. He explained the importance of having executives in tech companies with a socio-political consciousness, as it is integral that Latinos become a part of the next wave of moguls if we want to ensure success within our community. Preciado also emphasized the importance of networking, describing how many doors had been opened for him and how many he has had the opportunity to open for others. Still, he cautioned us that networking was not a volume game, but rather a value game, and the worth is in its diversity.

Group photo taken after our meeting with Hector Preciado at Hired where he emphasized the importance of having socially-conscious Latinos in positions of power at influential corporations. (From left to right: Rosie Serrato Lomeli, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo, Julio Mendez Vargas, Sonja Diaz, and Hector Preciado)

Our final meeting took place over dinner near Oakland’s City Center where we met with Gilberto Soria Mendoza, a previous mentee of Diaz from her days at UCLA. He offered us suggestions about graduate school and described his journey from East Palo Alto high school to Washington, D.C. and back. Mendoza was incredibly personable and gave us guidance about how we could best use our experiences at UCLA to benefit our professional and academic futures. He described to us how he managed to complete his master’s degree nearly debt-free and encouraged us to apply to professional programs that focus on helping students of color prepare for graduate school.

In all, these meetings provided a sense of security and inspiration for what our futures could entail. The sectors that De Vera, Preciado, and Mendoza occupy weren’t made for them or us. As such, seeing people of color taking up positions in these sectors that have been historically dominated by white people sparked a sense of motivation within us to follow their footsteps. It gives us hope that we too will accomplish our career goals in taking up leadership positions in sectors that were not structured for people that look like us.

On November 6, 2018, go vote and then check out a screening of Sorry To Bother You at UCLA followed by Q & A with its director, Boots Riley, and our amazing faculty, Professors H. Samy Alim, Gaye Theresa Johnson, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, and Robin D. G. Kelley.  Details can be found below.

Credit: UCLA PubAffairs

UCLA looks forward to welcoming a diverse and inter-generational group of about 100 scholars to UCLA for its 2-day Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) Summer Research Workshop and Planning Meeting This Workshop will be held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, August 8-10, 2018.

The 2016 CMPS was the first cooperative, 100% user content driven, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics (REP) in the United States. Researchers queried more than 10,000 people in five languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. To include the most comprehensive list of over 350 electoral, civic and policy-related survey questions, a team of 86 contributors from 55 colleges and universities across 18 academic disciplines contributed question content.

This Workshop will provide CMPS users with an outlet to present their research to a broad group of researchers both inside and outside of academia. Workshop events will range from research presentations as well as planning and brainstorming sessions as we gear up for the CMPS 2020. Presentations will feature cross-racial comparative data analysis, from a diverse and inter-generational group of CMPS users from across the country.

UCLA Co-Principal Investigator, Professor Lorrie Frasure-Yokley says, “We encourage collaboration to strengthen the academic pipeline in the study of race, ethnicity and immigration, through co-authorships and research opportunities, particularly for graduate students, post-docs and junior faculty. This 2-day meeting will serve as a professional development and networking opportunity for scholars of race, ethnicity and immigration in the United States. The CMPS is changing the way high-quality survey data is collected among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.  Through collaboration and inclusiveness, the CMPS broadens the scope of who has access to high-quality survey data in academia and beyond!”

For more information, please visit the CMPS website, http://cmpsurvey.org/.